Crooked Stave, Crooked Stave

Ben Sammis, October 09, 2014

I had the great good fortune of attending my cousin's wedding in Breckenridge, CO recently.  In addition to the wedding being an excellent affair filled with family and good friends (and a higher class of beer than one usually encounters at a wedding), it afforded me an opportunity to visit Crooked Stave and partake of their (spoiler alert:  uniformly excellent) beers.

Crooked Stave is, by our metrics, one of the best breweries on Earth.  They're one of the (ever-increasing number of) breweries with a 100% Solid rating, and of those breweries, they're sitting at #12 in BAR despite having effectively zero distribution.  Given how heavily BAR weights check-in frequency, this is quite an accomplishment.  Hill Farmstead is perhaps the only more impressive brewery judging by these criteria.

Anyway, my wife, sister, step-sister, and I landed in Denver around 9:30 am on a Friday.  We promptly required two and a half hours to exit our plane and rent a car.  If ever you are tempted to rent a car from some outfit called Fox Rent a Car, consider walking.  Or hitchhiking.  Or suicide.  I was definitely contemplating some light maiming, if not outright murder, by the time we were in our car and on our way.  

Luckily, my non-beer drinking sisters were agreeable enough to allow us to head straight for Crooked Stave.  This is because it is located in a building called The Source, which also houses two excellent restaurants, a butcher, a coffee shop, a liquor store, and a bunch of other shit I didn't care about.  By craftily allowing my sisters to choose between the two restaurants in the building, my wife and I were able to spend two blissful hours sampling an array of sour beers.  

First, however, we had lunch at Acorn.  You should do this.  It being the height of the lunch rush, we sat at the chef's counter and ate while listening to the very friendly line cook use the word "chef" at the beginning and end of his every utterance.  It was somewhat hypnotic, and also somewhat like watching Stripes, Full Metal Jacket, and one of those annoying cooking shows simultaneously.  Acorn also featured an impressive beer lineup in addition to their apparently ever-changing and delicious food.  Given our imminent immersion in sour beers, I went with Anderson Valley's Kimmie, the Yink, and the Holy Gose.  It was light, refreshing, pleasantly tart, and complemented my meal nicely.

So my sisters split and wife and I made our way to Crooked Stave's taproom.  It's a small space, perhaps 800 square feet, with a dozen or so tables and an L-shaped bar.  To either side of the seating area are several large stainless steel kettles and fermenters, but my understanding is that these are not actually in use just yet.  We promptly bellied up to the bar and ordered a flight of the entire eight beer draft lineup from the friendly, knowledgable, and hirsute gentleman pouring that afternoon.  

The lineup was as follows:  VielleVielle dry hopped with Motueka, Surette, L'Brett D'or, Nightmare on Brett (aged in rye whisky barrels), and Batch 100.  That 0 ABV on the Batch 100 is a lie, it's actually 6.0 according to the bottle in my beer and guns closet.  

These beers were uniformly excellent, though my wife felt that some of them weren't sour enough.  She's developed quite a fondness for lambic/geueze/wild ales recently.  Her favorite was the Surette (this batch had tangerines, we got a couple bottles with mandarin as well).  

My favorite, by far, was the Nightmare on Brett.  It was bursting with chocolate, coffee, caramel, vanilla, mouth-puckering tartness, and just a bit of pepper from the rye.  Eno has described the Almanac sour porter as life changing, and though I've never had that one, I imagine the Nightmare on Brett would make a worthy Beersport adversary for it.  

Sadly, no bottles were available, but we did leave with 2 bottles each of Surette (tangerine), Surette (mandarin), and Batch 100, all of which my dad was kind enough to drive back to Illinois for us, since the TSA in its infinite wisdom won't allow us to bring beer on a plane.  Fret not, empty bottles are fine, though.

After finishing our flight, we each had a full pour of our personal favorites, paid our tab, and went for a walk around the area.  It's a somewhat transitional neighborhood, lots of warehouses, industrial and a bit derelict looking.  

About two blocks from the Source we were surprised by an enormous motorcade carrying Vice President Biden -- I estimate 150 police vehicles, mostly motorcycles, 3 Secret Service SUVs, 3 limos, and an ambulance.  Most unexpected.  I took a video of it with my phone, but apparently they have iPhone suppressing technology, because the 90 second video I shot was only two seconds long when I tried to show it to my dad that evening.  

Once that nonsense was over, we stumbled upon a dispensary, which we of course had to visit, purely for research purposes.  The budtender there was very friendly as well, and I spoke to the owner for about a half hour about their lighting systems.  Since one of my biggest projects at work lately has been designing medical marijuana cultivation facilities and dispensaries, I'm pretty sure that between writing this article and visiting the dispensary, I can deduct the entire cost of the trip from my taxes as a business expense.

Note to any IRS employees reading this:  I won't attempt to deduct this trip from my taxes.  Also, I'm not even much of a Pavement fan, but Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain shuffled up on my computer this week.